The back story to this week's Front Page is that I have always had a fascination with rod building history, namely from the fiberglass era on up to the present day. There wasn’t however a lot of documentation detailing the men who were involved in the evolution of this industry. What was available for public consumption were mostly small bits and pieces, vague references, and anecdotal stories that didn’t tell a fraction of what I felt was the entire story. I had never really contemplated the idea of making any sort of attempt at documenting this information, but in January of 2001 that all changed.
January of that year I found myself at a Rod Building Conclave hosted by The Custom Rod Builders Guild in Nashville Tennessee. For several years I served on the Board of Directors for the Guild in multiple capacities, and I have to say that those years in the late 1990s were a very exciting time to be involved in the resurgence of RodBuilding. Among other folks in attendance, that year was Tom Kirkman, the publisher of RodMaker Magazine, Tom and I had known each other for a couple of years at that point, and had become pretty good friends, so it wasn’t unusual for him to extend me an invitation for dinner. Since my good buddy Bill Falconer lived in Nashville, he offered to chauffeur the group of us to the restaurant that evening. I say the “group”, because the dinner party also happened to include Gary Loomis and his wife Susan. This was a bit of a watershed moment for me because I had spent many days in my youth standing in front of the G Loomis rod display at Northwest Tackle here in San Antonio in awe of the rods that were being produced by the boys up in Woodland Washington.
Gary and I were seated across from one another and became quick friends through our shared love of both deer hunting and rod building history. After the obligatory exchange of photographs of that season's deer hunting adventures, we then engaged in a 2-hour dialogue whereby Gary proceeded to indulge all of my questions by sharing everything that he knew about the history of modern rod building, including his place in it. One of the most interesting things I took out of the conversation was Gary’s admission that Steve Rajeff deserved the credit for most of the taper designs at Loomis, but it was his (Gary's) expertise in designing and building the machinery that facilitated the use of the more exotic materials that made rod blanks lighter and thinner, thus allowing Steve's talent as a designer to flourish.
At some point during the conversation, I inquired about the status and whereabouts of Jimmy Green, the gentleman who alongside Don Green designed and produced the first marketable carbon fiber rod blank at Fenwick during the early 1970s. I asked about Jimmy for no other reason than my dad was a Fenwick guy, and I had a bit of an unexplainable draw to Jimmy’s influence on the tackle industry as both a rod designer and a tournament fly caster. Gary kind of casually responded that he was pretty sure that Jimmy was still alive and that he thought he was still living "up on the snake". At the time these four words seemed not much more than a meaningless bit of rod building trivia, but would prove later to be a key bit of information that changed not only the direction and trajectory of my involvement in the rod building industry, but the course of my life for the next 7 years.
After dinner, we headed back to the hotel to continue our conversation, that if I remember correctly lasted until well after midnight. I happened to be staying with Bill Falconer at his house that weekend, and on the ride home Bill said to me “You know Gary came up to me before we left and wanted to know how you knew so much about the history of rod building”. I don’t remember much about my reaction, except that I kind of casually laughed it off. What I do remember is that I fell asleep that night contemplating the possibility of contributing in some way to the documentation of the history of the industry. The question on the table now was "how".
Just a few months later I would approach Tom Kirkman at RodMaker with the idea of doing a series of interviews with the pioneers of the industry, to which he responded “this sounds great…I’ll be anxious to see what you can come up with”. I hung up the phone with Tom, immediately walked back into my office, ran a quick internet search for Jimmy Green-Fenwick, and one of the first search results was Jimmy Green, SNAKE RIVER RD, Asotin Washington. With Gary's passing comment in the back of my mind, I dialed the number that was included with the listing, and a gentleman answered the phone “Hello?” I introduced myself, and asked if this was the Jimmy Green that had worked at Fenwick, to which he replied “Yes, that’s me”. I briefly explained to him my idea for the series of interviews I had in mind and asked him if he would be interested in participating. I’ll never forget his response “Sure…call me on Thursday around noon”
And that is how Gary Loomis helped kick start my so-called “writing career”
Hope your all staying safe and healthy